The distinctive fragrance and flavour of Earl Grey Tea is due to the presence of bergamot, a type of citrus native to South Asia but strongly associated with its secondary home in Calabria, Italy. You can make your own bergamot-flavoured tea by following the instructions in The House Book; Or, Family Chronicle of Useful Knowledge, and Cottage Physician: Combining Medicine, Cookery, Diet, General Economy, Health, Sea-bathing, Gardening, Manufactures, Arts, Etc., ... Including Upwards of a Thousand Select Recipes and Prescriptions (London, 1823) by William Scott. Your own blend may not taste exactly like Earl Grey, but it may still be pretty good.
To render Tea at Five Shillings a Pound, equal to Tea at Twelve shillings.
The cheapest and most expensive teas are all the leaves of the same tree, at least they should be so, and if there were no sloe-leaves nor privet-leaves, they would be so. The high flavour, therefore, of some of the sorts of tea, and the want of flavour in others, must arise from the manner of preparing them, and must be in some measure artificial. It follows, that if we can discover any fine-flavoured substance, and add it to the tea in a proper manner, so as to make it agree and harmonise with the original flavour, we shall be able to improve low-priced an flavourless tea, into a high priced article of fine flavour, The flavouring substance found to agree best with the original flavour of tea, is the oil of bergamot; by the proper management of which, you may produce from the cheapest teas, the finest flavoured bloom, hyson, gunpowder, and cowslip. There are two ways of managing the bergamot. Purchase at the perfumers some of the perfumed pieces of wood, which they call bergamot fruit. Keep one such piece in your cannister, and it will flavour the tea in the same way as a tonquin bean flavours snuff. If your canister be a small one, the flavour perhaps would be too strong; in that case you may chip the bergamot fruit in pieces, and put only a little bit among your tea. Or procure a small phial of the oil of bergamot; take some of the smallest of your tea, and add it to a few drops of the oil, till you form a sort of paste, which is to be carefully mixed with the whole tea, in proportion to its quantity, and the degree of flavour you like best. If you make the flavour too strong, you have always an easy remedy, namely, by adding more unflavoured tea. When it is thus improved, it is often sold at eighteen shillings, and a guinea a pound. Cowslip tea has been as high as thirty-two shillings.
Tea (the leaves or the brew) can be flavoured with almost anything that takes your fancy – a slice of lemon, or a little mint, or cinnamon, cherry blossoms or verbena perhaps? Or if something a little more exotic is in your mind, how about anise or ambergris? No? Mutton fat then?
Tea itself can act as the flavouring ingredient for other dishes too, of course:
Tea for Icing.
Cream for Icing, 2 pints
Strong tea, 4 ounces
Sugar, 1 ounce
Yelks of four eggs.
Mix well and strain, ready for icing.
The cyclopædia of practical receipts in all the useful
and domestic arts (London 1841.)
Interesting mention of ambergris there - hadn't heard of its use in tea before. Must have made for an expensive cuppa, even back then!
Hi Emma, yes - it would have been expensive! I wonder if some tea entrepreneur will ever bring it back?
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